In the NCAA, big-name basketball coaches occasionally buy pizza for students who are camping out for tickets. At Brandon University, home of the Bobcats, coach Gil Cheung paid off a student's tuition.
The Bobcats men's and women's hoops teams regularly hold the Smitty's Tuition Shootout at Friday home games: sink a half-court shot, get free tuition for the semester. The prize was at risk of going unclaimed entering in Friday's final home doubleheader against the Regina Cougars. The BU athletic department decided to give students the option to let anyone in the building take the shot.
When Brandon physical education student Mason Kaluzniak (standing behind Cheung in the video below) was pulled out of the stands, instead of picking a player, he selected Bobcats coach Gil Cheung, who's also one of his former profs. The rest is history.
"He looked in our bench's direction and I jokingly said, 'Pick me!' " said Cheung, the Bobcats third-year head coach who played four years at Brandon. "The toughest part was seeing how I can shoot with a suit on."
Last month, NBA superstar LeBron James tackled a fan who won $75,000 US for making a half-court shot. The Bobcats stormed the floor to celebrate but there was no tackling, probably since the winner didn't take the shot and it's probably taboo to tackle your coach in front of hundreds of people.
It was human drama at it best, like something out of Will Ferrell hoops comedy Semi-Pro. Only it really happened and no one is trying to welsh on paying.
The Bobcats came into the final weekend of their season resigned to playing for pride after being eliminated from playoff contention in the Canada West conference. But changing the contest to include the possibility of a Bobcats baller — or their coach, as no one anticipated — relieving a classmate of having to pay her/his tuition this semester sent a charge through the entire team.
"As soon as we told them we were giving students the option, the men's team just automatically started horsing around, practising the half-court shot," Brandon sports information director Matt Packwood said. "Ilarion Bonhomme, our second-year guard, made three in a row and I was thinking, 'Okay, it's going to happen.' A couple other guys made a few."
During halftime of the women's game, Bobcats forward Jordan Reaves — son of former Winnipeg Blue Bombers great Willard Reaves — was called upon to shoot. Reaves, the team's leading scorer, hit the front of the rim. Starting guard Kenonte Ramsey, who averages 12.1 points per game, was just off to the left on his bid.
No doubt they were itching for another chance when Kaluzniak made what might have seemed to be a curious choice. Or maybe it wasn't; perhaps Kaluzniak is in a Canadian Interuniversity Sport basketball fantasy league, constantly checks stats and knew the Bobcats are second-last in their conference in three-point shooting.
"Then he picks Coach Cheung," Packwood related. "I started laughing. Gil was a shooter when he played 10 years ago, but he had the whole team to pick from. Gil walks out, takes off the suit jacket, says 'game time' and makes it."
Cheung made not just the shot, but a memory that will probably endure long past the end of this sports season at Brandon. The Bobcats went on to win the game 74-68, but that's probably not what anyone who was there wanted to talk about afterward.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet. Please address any questions, comments or concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org (video: Brandon University).